Now, if this blog has taught you anything about me, it’s that when I have a lot to do…
I bake instead.
And this weekend, I’ve been baking. A lot. It’s the return of my true, French baking efforts, beginning with my first-ever pâte à choux. Joe & I had so many pastry adventures last year, walking into our neighborhood bakery & picking whatever looked best that afternoon–delicate sablé pastry, cream-filled chou pastry shells, layer after layer of puff pastry. The chou treats always stole my heart. (Ah the Paris-Brest. Oh la la.)
I wanted to share this paragraph with you (via hertzmann.com), because it so clearly expresses what’s scary, exciting, stressful & wonderful about this unique pastry.
Whereas other doughs can be formed into various shapes, pâte à choux is so soft that it hardly supports itself before baking. Before baking, pâte à choux must either be spooned or piped into shape. Plus, pâte à choux contains eggs, in addition to flour and fat, which give the dough the ability to rise dramatically when baked. (And often collapse when cooled!)
I made éclairs last night, in an effort to get myself back on track with some goals I set for myself (obviously failing at the “eat healthier” goal for totally worthwhile reasons). Then, two friends needed some study & de-stress time. Enter Baking Day & the reason why this post is coming in so late on Saturday. We spent the day making chai cupcakes & classic cinnamon rolls.
The rolls were perfect for our studying–lots of rising time that forced us to power through some homework. Now, I’m stuffed, tired & realizing that there’s still so much to do…
But first, I’m sharing this éclair recipe with you. They’re a combo recipe, with the pastry coming from my Treasures of Lorraine cookbook, the cream coming from Annie’s Eats & the frosting being my own stand-by ganache. For length & ease of reading on this three-part recipe, I’m going to just put ingredients in boldface throughout.
- Heat 1½ cups half-and-half, 5 tablespoons of butter, a dash of salt and a teaspoon of vanilla-infused sugar over medium heat until lightly bubbling. Stir slowly, constantly, so that the sugar fully dissolves.
- Meanwhile, in a small bowl whisk together two egg yolks & 6 tablespoons of sugar until an even texture is reached.
- When the cream mixture is warm to the touch, add 1½ teaspoons of ground coffee.
- Stir well, & add in 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. Whisk until the mixture begins to thicken (about 30 seconds).
- Remove from heat. Slowly add the egg yolk mixture, so that the eggs do not begin to cook. Stir constantly.
- Return to medium heat, & allow it to reach a simmer. Remove from heat. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of butter until melted.
- Place in airtight container & allow to set in fridge for at least three hours.
The pâte à choux & simple ganache
- Line a cookie sheet with parchment. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Take a gallon-size plastic bag, & cut a triangle from the corner so that a one-inch slit is formed. This will give you a good-sized “tip” for piping your pastry onto the pan.
- In a small saucepan, heat 1/4 cup (½ stick) of butter & 2/3 cup of water over medium heat until it reaches a rolling boil. Stir occasionally.
- Once it’s boiling, remove from heat & add 9 tablespoons of all-purpose flour. Stir vigorously until an even texture is formed–a bit like Play-doh, in an odd way. Let it cool for two minutes.
- In the meantime, whisk together two eggs until creamy. To the dough, slowly add the two eggs, incorporating it before adding more. (This will require some mashing. You’ll start to think you’re failing. Then, a mashed-potato-type of texture will form, & all is well.) The pastry should be homogenous, smooth & moldable.
- Spoon the pastry into the gallon-sized bag you prepared. Evenly squeeze 12 four-inch lines of pastry.
- Bake the pastry for 25 minutes. They should be puffed & golden brown.
- Remove from oven, & immediately cut a slit lengthwise along each pastry. This will allow steam to escape, letting the shell harden & stay puffed. If you wait to slice them, they’ll be a bit soggy, get squished in your hand & lose all their fluffy-factor.
- While the shells cool, prepare the ganache. Finely chop (almost shave) 1.5 ounces dark chocolate. Set aside. Warm 3 tablespoons of heavy cream in the microwave until hot to the touch but not boiling. Pour the chocolate shavings over the cream, & stir slowly until all of the chocolate melts.
- Dip the top half of each éclair shell in the ganache for a nice, glossy frosting. Place in the fridge until you’re ready to fill the éclairs.
Use a piping bag to fill the shells. Slip the tip into the slit of the éclair, & run an even line down the cavity until a bit oozes out (so you know it’s good & full).
Keep the éclairs in the fridge so that the cream stays in the shell & the shell stays firm. Eat quickly, or they’ll become spongy & soggy. I recommend consuming them within 24 hours.
Believe me. That won’t be a problem.